Biology in pictures

"A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it -- it is in one word, effective." - Irving Penn

Credit: Pok Rie

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Welcome to

The Faces of Biology Contest

Biological research is transforming our society and the world. Help the public and policymakers to better understand the breadth of biology by entering our Faces of Biology photo contest.

About the Contest

The theme of the contest is "Faces of Biology." Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person, such as a scientist, researcher, collections curator, technician, or student, engaging in biological research. The depicted research may occur outside, in a lab, with a natural history collection, on a computer, in a classroom, or elsewhere. Help communicate science through imagery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how science is being conducted in 2020. You are invited to share how you are conducting your research in these unusual times.


The First Place Winner will have their photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year subscription to BioScience.

The Second and Third Place Winners will have their photos printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year subscription to BioScience.

The contest has now ended and will take place again in April 2021.

Our winners from 2011 through today!

In this picture, Cleopatra Pimienta, a biologist and Doctoral candidate at Florida International University, is working on her photographic record of insect-pollinated flowers in the pine rockland habitat, deep in the Everglades in south Florida. Cleopatra is seeing here taking a picture of the flaxleaf false foxglove (Agalinis linifolia). This wetland plant is highly visited by native bees and serves as a host for caterpillars of a species of butterfly common in the area, making it a keystone species in this habitat. Credit: Carlos Ruiz
2020 1st Place
Nick Freymueller, a masters student at the University of New Mexico, measures the lower carnassial length of the late Pleistocene-age scimitar cat Homotherium serum at the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin. Molar lengths allow paleoecologists to determine the body size of extinct species, which is crucial in understanding how they interacted with each other in ancient ecosystems. Credit: Nick Freymueller
2020 2nd Place
Summer field researchers from the Johnson Lab at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the University of Colorado, Boulder are pictured at the University of California Blue Oak Ranch Reserve conducting aquatic sampling of amphibians and their parasites as part of a study to explore how multi-host, multi- pathogen interactions drive infection dynamics in complex communities and landscapes. Graduate and undergraduate assistants from left to right Neal Handloser, Mary Jade Farruggia, Meg Summerside, Evan Esfahani and Travis McDevitt-Galles. Credit: Mike Hamilton
2020 3rd Place
Samantha Jordt measures the health of streams by counting the amount and types of insect egg masses deposited on emergent rocks. Her M.Sc. at the Department of Applied Ecology at NC State is assessing the insect biodiversity of restored vs. natural streams across North Carolina. Credit: Michelle Jewell
2019 1st Place
Costa Rican-American PhD student, Brandon Guell, observes, photographs, and collects behavioral data during an explosive breeding aggregation of gliding treefrogs, Agalychnis spurrelli, at a remote pond on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. During explosive breeding aggregations of this species tens of thousands of adults come to breed at large ponds and leave behind hundreds of thousands of eggs of which most die from desiccation, predation, and fungal infection. Brandon studies the behavioral reproductive ecology of adult frogs, the survival and development of their eggs, and adaptive phenotypic plasticity in their developing embryos, specifically environmentally cued hatching in response to environmental stimuli. Credit: Brandon Guell
2019 2nd Place
Dr. Thomas Illiffe collects a blind cave shrimp that could be a new species inside of Giant Cave Belize. The process is very unique and he's perfected it in an extreme environment. His work could show how organisms can survive in hash environments on other planets. Credit: Becky Schott
2019 3rd Place
University of Miami Shark Research & Conservation photographer Christopher Brown captured this image of graduate student Jake Jerome safely restraining a bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) while Dr. Natascha Wosnick used a Flir T420 thermal imaging camera to analyze the influence of solar irradiation on shark recovery. Dr. Wosnick’s current research efforts include evaluating how the exposure to air temperature can influence the post-release thermal dynamics of coastal shark species. Credit: Christopher Brown
2018 1st Place
Researchers Glenda Yenni (left) and Ellen Bledsoe (right) check rodent traps early one morning as a rainstorm lifts outside Portal, Arizona. Twenty-four long-term experimental plots enclosed by low metal fences have been censused nearly every month for the past 40 years at the site. The project, started by University of New Mexico ecologist Jim Brown in 1977, has resulted in one of the longest-running public data sets on community ecology and ecosystem change in existence, and has been the focus of dozens of dissertations and scientific papers. Credit: Joan Meiners
2018 2nd Place
Florida Museum division of fishes curator Larry Page and collection manager Rob Robins check the identification of two individuals of gar collected from Cuba at the request of an outside researcher. The fish collection at the Florida museum contains more than 2.2 million specimens and was ranked as the tenth most important fish specimen resource in North America. Credit: Zach Randall
2018 3rd Place
Carla DeMasters, MS, identifies plants as part of a restoration project with Denver Botanic Gardens. The project focuses on restoring 5.5 acres of degraded riparian habitat outside of Denver, Colorado. Credit: Gavin Culbertson
2017 1st Place
In this photo I am sorting and counting the spiders that were just collected in the field at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in southern Idaho. I use a beating sheet, which was propped up behind me at that moment for shade as I separated the specimens, to collect jumping (Salticidae) and crab (Thomisidae) spiders from vegetation. I collect in vegetated islands, called kipukas, that are surrounded by a harsh landscape of basalt lava flows. There are over 500 kipukas at Craters of the Moon. These kipuka islands vary in age, area, and isolation and I am interested in how these factors influence the biological community present within them. Along with collecting jumping and crab spiders I also collect representatives of the plant community to get a snapshot of the community present in that particular kipuka. Credit: Katie Peterson
2017 2nd Place
Katherine Fu, Ph.D. student with Denver Botanic Gardens, images specimens from the Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium of Vascular Plants. Specimen images and data are shared through biodiversity portals expanding access to these valuable collections. Credit: Dressel Martin
2017 3rd Place
The photo was taken in the Missouri River above the confluence of the Marias River (Decision Point of the Lewis and Clark voyage). The photo is of graduate student Luke Holmquist (Montana State University) releasing a female pallid sturgeon that was captured moments earlier. The pallid sturgeon is an endangered species and so happens to be the species that has the most money dedicated to its recovery of all the endangered species in the United States. The fish in this photo is from the 1997 year class that was produced in the hatchery and released in 1998. She is 19 years old and just became sexually mature. She didn't spawn this year and is currently going atretic. Credit: Christopher Guy
2016 1st Place
Scientists Michael Baym and Tami Lieberman from Roy Kishony's lab at the Harvard Medical School and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology set the scene for a large-scale experiment of bacterial evolution towards antibiotic resistance. Media containing black ink is poured into a 2-by-4 foot petri dish. A gradient of antibiotic is created so that the outermost sides of the dish are antibiotic-free but each subsequent section towards the center contains 10-times the antibiotic. Escherichia coli bacteria is inoculated at the two ends of the dish, and a camera records bacterial movement, death, and survival over 2 weeks. According to Kishony, this Microbial Evolution and Growth Arena (MEGA) plate powerfully demonstrates the ease by which bacteria can evolve antibiotic resistance, and also visualizes complex concepts in evolution such as mutation selection, lineages, parallel evolution, and clonal interference. Credit: Alina Chan
2016 2nd Place
Paleontologist Takehito 'Ike' Ikejiri looks for vertebrate fossils as a late summer thunderstorm looms in the distance. The colorful exposures are mainly from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation of western Colorado, approximately 150 million years old. While the Jurassic was dominated by dinosaurs, it was also an important well-spring for many modern taxa, including mammals. Ike was part of a field expedition that spent all summer dodging the big, charismatic dinosaur fossils in favor of focusing on the small vertebrates that evolved to define our landscape today. Credit: Juri Miyamae
2016 3rd Place
Owl researcher, Denver Holt works over one of this season's snowy owl nests in Barrow, Alaska. Founder and president of the Owl Research Institute, Denver carries a legacy of 25 years of snowy owl research. After much recognition he remains humble and most important, respectful and loving to the tundra and owls. Sharing in his field work is an amazing learning experience. On each nest he measures the captured pray, owlet conditions and egg hatching while cautious parents look over him and sometimes dive bomb to protect their nest. Denver practices a fast and gentle approach to minimally disturb the owl's natural process. I'm documenting Denver's work as part of a story on Arctic researchers. He kindly took me to the three nests this season has to offer. After much hiking in the spongy cold tundra, with temperature around 30F we reached the first nest and discovered these recently hatched owlets. Credit: Florencia Mazza Ramsay
2015 1st Place
Stephen Mason, Curatorial Assistant at the Academy of Natural Sciences, spreads moth and butterfly specimen's wings and sets them out to dry in place so that they may be identified and integrated into the Academy's entomology collection which houses over 105,000 different species. Credit: Isa Bentancourt
2015 2nd Place
PhD student Marielle Smith installs a mid-canopy light sensor on a tree branch in an Amazon forest. A network of these sensors monitors vertical profiles of light through the canopy in order to illuminate drivers of ecosystem processes. Credit: Tyeen Taylor
2015 3rd Place
Charles Oudzi collects caribou scat on Tets’ehxe (Drum Lake) in the Shúhtagot’ı̨nę Nę́nę́ (Mackenzie Mountains) of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Caribou scat, collected non-invasively, provides genetic information that is used to analyze the connectivity and relationships between different caribou populations in the region. The research is dependent on the voluntary collection of scat samples by local hunters and trappers. Credit: Jean Polfus
2014 1st Place
Allie Stone, the person in the image, and I are imaging specialists for collections at The Field Museum. One night we decided to stay very late to keep working on imaging projects we were working on. She was working on tropical butterflies and was currently on the family Nymphalidae. I realized that while science is full of incredible 'AHA' moments as well as amazing collecting experiences, so much of what is known to science is in the work of people like Allie that stay in a collection alone until 11pm at night in order to provide images and information to researchers and the public online. So often advancement in science happens because there is no appropriate or inappropriate time for passionate individuals to work. Credit: Daniel Le
2014 2nd Place
The Sitka Sound Science Center is partaking in a research project to investigate the interactions of wild and hatchery chum salmon in Southeast Alaska. During the summer months, field crews are sent to 32 streams across the region to collect samples. Here is a shot of the crew I worked with, as we reached the upper portion of our sampling area on Sawmill Creek, near Juneau Alaska. Credit: Ben Adams
2014 3rd Place
Researchers pose with a lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) displayed for digital imaging. Side views of these fish are captured to identify different morphotypes (i.e., deep versus shallow water) and to study form-function relationships to help inform restoration efforts in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Credit: Andrew Muir
2013 1st Place
Branching rules in plants are important for understanding global carbon fluxes. Despite the importance of this variation in geometry, very little is known about plant architecture. Here a Peruvian student (Percy Orlando Chambi Porroa) measures branch lengths and radii on a sample obtained from the canopy of the cloud forest in Manú National Park (Peru). Using these measurements it is possible to test theories of branching architecture and better predict carbon fluxes in forests worldwide. These measurements are part of a large international project involving dozens of students who are gaining experience in functional ecology theory and field methods. The project uses a set of ten sites spanning the Amazon-Andes climate gradient. Credit: Benjamin Blonder
2013 2nd Place
An inmate technician for Sustainability in Prisons Project's Taylor's checkerspot program, Carolina Landa, gently handles an endangered butterfly in the butterfly greenhouse at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. Credit: Benjamin Drummond
2013 3rd Place
Credit: Brittany Barker
2012 1st Place
Credit: Audrey Kruse
2012 2nd Place
Credit: Evan Eifler
2012 3rd Place
Credit: Geoffrey Gallice
2011 1st Place
Credit: Laura Russo
2011 2nd Place
Credit: Jessica Celis
2011 3rd Place